QUIGLEY: September 11th In Retrospect

Submitted by Dan Quigley, RTC Chair

I remember almost every detail of Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. It was a gorgeous day. Not a cloud in the sky. I was supposed to travel to Tokyo that Friday, so I went and got my haircut at the Fulton Street barber shop before work. On the way to the office, I walked right by the Twin Towers like I did almost every day. I arrived on the Merrill Lynch trading floor at about 7:30 and began my morning routine. I made a few calls, got my breakfast and then as the trading day began, I heard an oddly loud noise that sounded like a car crash. From that moment on, my life was inexorably changed.

Having come of age in the 1980’s, I was always cognizant of how fortunate my generation was to have lived during an unparalleled time of peace and prosperity. We had even witnessed a peaceful end to the Cold War, and with that, America had emerged as the sole global superpower. The future was very bright. The events of September 11th were a sober reminder of how fragile a seemingly “peaceful” world really was.

However, in the crucible of the hours, days and weeks that followed, we saw so many examples of America at its best. As Americans, we saw the differences that sometimes separate us instantly dissipate, replaced by an overwhelming sense that we were ALL Americans. We were all in this together, and we would all get through it together. 

In reflecting on the twentieth anniversary of September 11th, I’ll try to remember the selflessness and sacrifice that so many displayed during that day and in the ensuing weeks, months and years that followed. The efforts of the first responders and rescue workers at Ground Zero and the Pentagon; the heroism of the passengers of Flight 93; the sacrifices of the many men and women in our armed forces who fought for our freedom so far from home. 

Throughout its history, America has often been at its best when challenges seem most daunting. Whether it was the Continental Army after its early defeats, overcoming the Depression to save western democracy and rebuild a shattered Europe, binding the wounds of Civil War, securing the promise of Civil Rights or surviving the challenges of  a pandemic, America always rebounds. And we are at our best when we work together. September 11th 2001 was no different.

Let this twentieth anniversary of 9/11 be a day to remember those that were lost, a day to honor those who defended our country and a lesson to all of us about how quickly our differences dissipate when we are faced with a common challenge.

Let it be a reminder to us all that in the darkest hour of my generation, Americans picked each other up and had each others back, no matter our differences. Twenty years ago, America met the challenge. Let’s make sure we do our best to see to it that America will endure.